13 Genoa Holiday Cruise Reviews

When we booked this cruise we were flying from Gatwick to Genoa, about 20 minutes transfer from the port. This was one of the deciding factors when picking this cruise as long transfers are really difficult for me. However, 9 days before ... Read More
When we booked this cruise we were flying from Gatwick to Genoa, about 20 minutes transfer from the port. This was one of the deciding factors when picking this cruise as long transfers are really difficult for me. However, 9 days before we travelled we got the tickets and were informed that we were now flying from Heathrow into Milan Malpensa airport - 2.5 hours transfer time to the port. Need less to say we were not impressed! It is important to point out that we booked through Virgin Cruises, so it is not clear who was responsible for the fact that we only discovered the change 9 days before we sailed. However, the change was still unacceptable. Anyway, when we arived at Milan airport we were met by the MSC rep (very friendly) who informaed us that we would have an hour wait before we left as we were waiting for another 2 people on a later flight. Finally we arrived at the port and were directed to the boat in a rather haphazard manner. We received our room cards and were informed that we would be eating in the second sitting, even though we had requested 1st sitting. We were told to sort this out with reception, which we duly did. One of the receptionist was quite rude and was very quick to point out that 'requests cannot be guaranteed'. Luckily another receptionis (Lucia) was very polite and said we should go and see the restaurant manager who would probably be able to change it for us. This we did and we were indeed changed to 1st sitting with no problems. This bodes the question why were we not given the sitting we requested to start with??? What a pointless waste of time for everyone! On the plus side, the food and service at dinner was excellent, with them very helpfully accomadating my gluten free requirements. Also the evening entertainment (although at times resembling a trip to Butlins), was very good, especially the shows in the Broadway Theatre. Also the room was much bigger and nicer than I expected, with a comfortable, large bed and lots of storage space (including a safe and lots of hanging space). There was also a hairdryer, which was v handy. Unfortunately the staff at breakfast were not so friendly, in fact pretty indifferent I would say an the choice was a bit limited and got very boring by the end of the week. The 2 excursions we did were pretty good, although v expensive, and even coach transfers out of the port were very pricey. Just as we were beginning to think it wasn't too bad though, we got our instructions for leaving the boat on the last day. Essentially we were turfed off at 9:15am and transferred to the airport...even though our flight was not until 7pm. So, 7 hours in Milan Malpensa airport - what a marvellous end to the holiday!! Needless to say the good definitely did not out weight the bad on this trup so I would not travel with them again and I would discourage others from doing so either. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We cruised on the MSC Fantasia boarding in Geona. We were a family group of 2 grandparents, 2 parents and 2 children (14 and 12 years) It was our second cruise with MSCI hope that my review may give a few tips on the Ship and Ports that ... Read More
We cruised on the MSC Fantasia boarding in Geona. We were a family group of 2 grandparents, 2 parents and 2 children (14 and 12 years) It was our second cruise with MSCI hope that my review may give a few tips on the Ship and Ports that may help and alleviate any concerns you have.The ShipThere seems to be general consensus that MSC ships are well maintained and I can wholeheartedly agree with that. They are absolutely spotless. Constantly being cleaned and painted until they gleam.The CabinWe had a balcony cabin on deck 11. It had a large double bed and large sofa bed. It was perfectly acceptable for a family of 4. Again it was spotless and beautifully serviced.The ServiceWhat must be realised is that MSC is a truly Italian line and so, as such, the service is quiet and understated. Do not expect a 'Disney' type reception. However, all our requirements were met politely and to our satisfaction. Even our last minute request for a Birthday cake.The FoodIt seems to be a fairly contentious issue but we have absolutely no complaints. Admittedly it is not 'gourmet', but there was always plenty of choice and we never went hungry! It certainly isn't English cuisine but for me that's part of the joy of being in on holiday. I don't want a recreation of GB overseasBreakfast Tip Order Room Service (free) in your cabin for early morning coffee/ juice before heading for breakfast later! A lovely way to start your day.Note if you head further through the restaurant, to the rear, it is much quieter although the hot buffet is not available.Lunch Avoid the lengthy queue that seems to develop at the first buffet and go further in to the next set of buffets. To the left there is an Exotic bar (Mexican, Chinese, Indian etc) and it never seemed busy. It appears people wait in line for the sausages, burgers and chips at the first counter, so avoid these and you will be fine. Also better for the waist line!! Yes it is busy - but I guess an alternative is to use one of the waiter service restaurants. We never tried them ourselves though.Dinner We were first sitting at 7pm. We generally left the restaurant around 9pm and never felt rushed. We enjoyed every meal - although the octopus was not so popular with the children! The service was always impeccable.DrinksWe purchased a 'Cheers' package before we left. This entitled us to soft drinks, beer and wine with meals. At lunch time that meant anything between the hours when the buffet was open (usually 11.30 - 4pm) It worked for us as we like to have a drink with meals, and we could also stock up with water. Probably not cost effective for everyone, although I would do it again as it meant no nasty surprises on our end of week account.The EntertainmentThe shows are short and hugely entertaining. Some better than others - but I won't spoil it for you. A lovely way to relax after dinner.SunbedsOn our last cruise belongings were moved from sunbeds after 30 mins left vacant. Completely fair in my view. However, despite a note to say that is the policy, it was never enforced. That means you have to play the game too! Note that the pool area gets VERY noisy around 3pm onwards so for some peace and quiet head to the Zen area at the Stern ( not adults only) or the Solarium with great 'Birds nests' to lie on ( adults only)Also be aware that if at sea and particularly windy, many sunbeds get put away for safety reasons, so pick your spot with care!PortsMarseille It was a Sunday and there is very little open so we stayed on boardBarcelona The Ship docks near the centre but still a long walk. The MSC offers a Shuttle bus at 8 euros an adult and 5 euros for children (under 13) . It drops near the end of The Ramblas. We then took a taxi to the Sagrada Familia. It cost us 8 euros for 4 of us and it was about 4 times the distance. In hind sight we could have toured the whole of Barcelona in a taxi for 29 euros we paid MSC. Not good value and I was faintly irritated.Also note that there is a blue port shuttle bus that runs to a similar location and I expect it is only a few euros. That is probably a good bet.La GouletteWe decided against a ship excursion and had a quiet day on board; just walking ashore for an hour so the children could set foot in Africa. We noted that at the main taxi office (in the new La Goulette 'cruise village') there were 5 hour tours for 6 people priced at 60 euros. Much cheaper than the ship and it appeared to be well organised.VallettaA helpful tourist information point is located on the quayside as you leave the ship. The town is just a short walk up the hill from the Grand Harbour where the ship docks. We spent a pleasant day strolling around. MessinaAnother helpful Tourist information point in the port exit buildingThis was our only MSC excursion; some of the family took a trip to Mt Etna. They absolutely loved it and after checking out taxi prices ashore it seems it was probably the most cost effective way. The rest of us walked to some beautiful churches with fabulous views and then headed back to the main square for the 12 midday 'spectacle' at the clock tower!CivitavecchiaThe port provides a free shuttle bus to the Port entrance and from there it is just a short walk to the train station.We bought tickets (9 euros per person) from the booth just outside the gate. Exactly the same tickets as those at the station but avoids the queues. You can also purchase a timetable (1 euro) but basically there are 2 trains an hour to Rome.It took an hour to St Pietro where it is a short walk to the Vatican. From there we picked up a Tourist Bus to see the main sights before returning by train to the Ship.It was a very easy journey and a fraction of the cost of an organised tour - don't be put off by going it alone. In fact there were hundreds of others heading the same direction!To summarise - we had an amazing holiday. We would definitely cruise with MSC again. It is an Italian company so don't be surprised by their European ways!! All I would suggest is that you do a little ground work before you go. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
MSC Splendida - 11 days, 16th to 27th December, Christmas Cruise to the eastern Mediterranean. Splendida is a splendid ship, very elegant, clean, comfortable and excellent food; however there are a few 'buts'. The main gripe is ... Read More
MSC Splendida - 11 days, 16th to 27th December, Christmas Cruise to the eastern Mediterranean. Splendida is a splendid ship, very elegant, clean, comfortable and excellent food; however there are a few 'buts'. The main gripe is that the British customers, and remember this is an Italian cruise line catering to Italians, Germans, French, Spanish and Americans, and probably some other nationalities also, are not very well catered for in some areas. For instance, one cannot get a cup of English tea served in any of the bars/cafes, any flavour tea but English. If the beverage stations are closed in the self-service cafeterias (and they are, after normal meal times, contrary to what one is told of 24 hour service) then tough luck. I suggest you take a small kettle with you so that you can make tea in your cabin after having helped yourself to teabags and milk when you visit the cafeterias. For breakfast and lunch you have the choice to eat in the self-service cafeterias or to visit either of the dining rooms. At evening dinner you will have to eat in the dining room and at the table allocated to you. Eating in the dining room for dinner is very nice, no self-service here, all waiter service. A 7 course menu is presented to you and you may choose as many or as few courses as you wish, so there is always something for everybody to eat, but you will not be served coffee after dinner. However, do not expect to have a jug of water on your table, a glass of tap water is nigh on impossible to get and if you manage it, you will be sworn to secrecy. You will be urged to purchase a 1 litre bottle of still or sparkling water at €3.70 + 15% service charge. This service charge is added to ALL drinks purchased in dining rooms, bars and room service. To my mind this is an absolute audacity when you have already been charged a daily gratuity which is stated on your account as "service charge" of, in our case €12.00 per day. When we were boarding the ship and doing all the necessary documentation the Lifeboat Drill was taking place and we hadn't even been shown to our cabin at this time to be able to access our lifejackets. I understand this drill is a worldwide legal requirement and that ALL passengers must take part, in this case many didn't. The use of the hand sanitisers at all points was very haphazard with no member of crew ensuring that everybody used them. We noticed that towards the end of the cruise some were empty and were not being refilled. At the end of our cruise, it was absolute chaos. We could not get any information regarding our coach transfer departure time. It appeared that whichever airport you were departing from, everybody, whatever time their flight was were disembarked at the same time. Our departure point was Milan and we were herded on to our coach at 10.00am, and left the port at 10.30 on a 2 hour drive for a flight departing at 18.55, an enforced wait of 6 hours at the airport. Having said all that, we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, we visited some very nice places and a couple not so nice. Some places we had not been to previously, so this gave one the opportunity to decide if you wanted to visit them for a longer period on a land- based holiday. Would we go with MSC again? No we would not, mainly for the outrageous charges levied, but also we prefer a smaller ship (Splendida can carry 3,274 passengers) and fewer nationalities. This was not a happy ship, the training for crew members who we came into contact with left a lot to be desired. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
my husband and i cruised dec, 2010 to egypt, greece, malta, and italy on the msc splendida. great ship and great staff. everyone was very helpful and friendly. the itinerary was exactly what we were looking for. we had an interior cabin ... Read More
my husband and i cruised dec, 2010 to egypt, greece, malta, and italy on the msc splendida. great ship and great staff. everyone was very helpful and friendly. the itinerary was exactly what we were looking for. we had an interior cabin that was spacious and very clean. the bed was very comfortable and the bed linens were fantastic. very high thread count. the towels were oversized and wonderful. several cruise reviews i've read slammed the food in the dining room. we thought most nights it was very good. there were a couple of misses there but nothing major. the ship decor was beautifully tasteful and the ship was easy to get around. the spa was fantastic! we bought a spa package so we spent quite a bit of time there. try the seashell massage. i was afraid it would be gimmicky but it was really good. i got the best pedicure ever in the beauty salon. it didn't take long to get ashore once we reached the ports and the staff was organized and helpful. we were surprised at the prices in the mexican restaurant and the minibar. they were really reasonable. a number of people were complaining because you had to buy water in the dining room. that wasn't a big deal to me. keep in mind if you are going on this cruiseline; you have to pay for water and budget accordingly, if that kind of thing is a big deal to you. bottom line: i will definitely cruise with this line again. we thought it was a fantastic vacation. my only complaint was that the christmas carols really got on my nerves after the first day or two. please, msc, add more variety to your music selection since you can't get away from it in the public areas of the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Background- We are a couple in our early 30's from the U.S. This was our second cruise together, and our first med cruise. It was also our first anniversary. Pre-cruise: We had spent the week before our cruise in Germany, so we had ... Read More
Background- We are a couple in our early 30's from the U.S. This was our second cruise together, and our first med cruise. It was also our first anniversary. Pre-cruise: We had spent the week before our cruise in Germany, so we had a short (around an hour) flight from Munich into Turin. As a U.S. traveler, I was very impressed by the Munich airport. We didn't have to take off our shoes to go through security! In fact, the entire time from when we got dropped off at the airport to when we were standing at our gate was about 20 minutes (this included checking bags.) The Turin airport was similarly easy. We collected our baggage, and went to the tourist information desk to buy bus tickets into the city. The bus took us to the main train station and our hotel (the Majestic Hotel) was across the street. Our hotel was fine. I did not sleep much b/c there are no clocks in the room, and there was a fair amount of light coming into our room due to very thin curtains, and the bright sign outside our room. We enjoyed walking around Turin that evening and had a very good dinner that was quite reasonably priced. We would have liked to have more time there. The next morning we took the train to Genoa. We took the regional train because we wanted to get to Genoa earlier than we could on the IC train. It was easy to use, and the journey took about 2 hours. It was drizzling for most of our ride, so we couldn't see much. We arrived in Genoa about 10:30. Upon arriving at the Genoa train station, we walked around the train station to see if we could see the port. We could see the Fantasia! We thought about trying to walk, but we couldn't really see how to get there, and it was raining harder, so we went back up to the train station and got a cab. Embarkation: We weren't sure if we would be able to get on or not, since it was about 10:45 at this point, and we had found the documentation about when embarkation starts to be sort of vague (but mostly seemed to say it would start at 2pm) but in light of the rain we thought we would try. There were plenty of people there, and upon arriving at the port we were greeted by an MSC representative and a bellhop who put on our luggage tags and whisked our luggage away. The entire check in procedure took about 45 minutes- not much at all, and we were on board! We proceeded to explore the ship, and then we went to the buffet for lunch. OUR ROOM: We had booked the lowest category of balcony room. Our room was really nice. It was bigger than the balcony room we had the year before on the Crown Princess. Our balcony was bigger as well. We really liked the balcony furniture- very comfortable wicker instead of plastic furniture. The bathroom had a full tub rather than just a shower. We were on deck 8. Our location on deck 8 had pluses and minuses. The pluses, we took the stairs almost all the time and didn't need to wait for the elevators, which could be quite crowded. The minuses- The promenade deck was directly below us, so if anyone was on the promenade, they could see our balcony. The lifeboats are on deck 7-so looking down from the balcony, that is what we saw. (Looking out we saw the ocean and whatever we were passing.) For some odd reason, every morning around 9am they crew would clean the lifeboats by spraying them with water, and would also turn and spray the deck 8 balconies. This meant that our deck furniture was soaked. We only really noticed this on the days that we didn't have early port calls. We weren't sure if we needed a balcony for a winter med cruise, but we loved having it. During the day we were comfortable on the balcony in jeans and long sleeve t-shirts, at night I would add a sweatshirt and be fine. We loved being able to see different islands and the Italian coast line from our balcony. We passed through the straights of Messina from 11:15-1am or so on New Year's Eve, and we were able to watch fireworks going off all over Sicily- this was an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, we were less impressed by our room steward. She was fine, and we are not that picky, but I expected better. We ran out of toilet paper, and had to track it down, she took away 1 washcloth after 1 day and didn't replace it until day 6. At one point we couldn't find DH's sweatshirt- we found it late that night when we went to bed- it had been made into the bed. Also (and I guessing this may be the company, not her fault) she took away our robes and the MSC book the day before disembarkation. This was annoying, partly because we did not realize the robes were gone until we were about to put them on. FOOD & DRINKS: drink package- We had pre-purchased drink package 704, which for $16 a day gave us unlimited bottled water/ soda's/ beers/ and wine in the restaurants. This worked out really well for us. I am a HUGE water drinker, and this meant that the common MSC complaint about no tap water was irrelevant for us. Every night in the restaurant our waiter automatically brought us a bottle of quite good red wine, and a bottle of water. He would bring us another bottle of water at the end of dinner to take with us, and offered us more wine. (1 bottle a night is enough for us, so we declined additional wine.) At lunch we got bottles of water, and soda in cans, and then would get additional cans of soda and bottles of water to take with us at the end of the meal. I used the water on our excursions as well. Dinner in Dining Room- We were in the C' di Oro dining room second seating at a table for 6. Our waiter was truly outstanding. He was fast, efficient, polite, and accurate. The food was in general pretty good. The pasta dishes were the best things on the menu. Every night there was a 'regional' menu featuring a different region of Italy, ordering the straight regional menu generally resulted in the best food. We were seated with two other lovely couples, one from Switzerland, and one from Belgium. Our seating arrangement was somewhat awkward b/c one of the couples clearly preferred to be speaking french, and were quite disappointed to discover that we spoke no french. A few nights when we wanted to finish dinner a little sooner we just ordered through the pasta course, which also worked fine. I did miss the anytime dining options on Princess, while we loved having the same waiter, dinner did get somewhat tiring, the combination of struggling to communicate with our table mates, and not eating until 8:45. Lunch in Dining Room- we had lunch in the dining room several times. It was quite good. Lunch was in the Red Velvet restaurant, and we did like it better than our dining room. Lunch in Buffet- we ate lunch in the buffet 3 times. The first time we thought it was okay. The second time was as we were leaving Naples, all aboard was at 2:30, and the buffet closed at 3. We were not the only ones who had the idea to go there right before closing, and it was insane. After lapping the tables twice and being completely unable to find any seats we carried our food down to our room and ate on our balcony, our food was completely cold. We weren't that hungry on the second sea day and decided to go there for lunch- we were able to find a seat without a problem, but the food just wasn't very good. It always took a LONG time to get drinks in the buffet. Another odd thing about the buffet is that they put plates on both sides of every station- which means there is no correct way the line should flow, and people are sort of colliding with each other reaching around and getting food. Room Service Breakfast- a fairly basic menu, but perfectly fine. We especially liked the yogurt. Buffet Breakfast- we only did this once, and thought it terrible. There was a quite limited selection, and all of the egg varieties were completely cold. Dining Room Breakfast- We did this twice. Both times it was quite good. Le Etoile, French Restaurant- We made reservations here for our anniversary. We were somewhat disappointed in it. We loved the atmosphere, it was quiet, there was a nice piano player, we had a wonderful view, and a table for 2. The food was just okay. The service was just okay, our service in the main dining room was better. The wine we ordered (for some 39 euros) was significantly worse than the wine we got as part of our drink package in the main dining room. Tex Mex Restaurant- we went here twice for snacks. The prices were pretty good, and the food was fine. A warning to any American guests- at least what we got was not what I think of as Tex/ Mex- it is more Central American. The quesadilla was good, but quite spicy, and much thicker then a traditional tex/mex quesadilla. The toppings on the tostada were cold, as in just out of the refrigerator cold. La Cantina Toscana- we LOVED this wine bar and went here several times before dinner. Both of the Ukrainian waitresses were excellent and quite knowledgeable about wines. They would make great recommendations to us, and would bring us tastes of wine before we ordered. Our glasses of wine came with perfectly paired appetizers, that were included in the price of the glass of wine. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to two of the shows and thought they were quite good. They were both cirque de soleil style acts. I was impressed by the quality of the performances. We also went to several of the bars after dinner and sat and listened to the music, all of the musicians were very good. There was a band and dancing every night in La Insolita lounge. The dance floor was always pretty full with lots of people dancing, most of whom were much better than us! DISEMBARKATION: I seriously doubt there is a good way to disembark that many people from the ship. That being said- I found disembarkation to be fairly odd. We were given luggage tags with colors, and we got the sheet the night before which identified which groups should get which colors. But the sheet did not give any times, or priority to which color would be disembarked first. The morning of disembarkation it appeared rather random which color would be called over the loudspeaker. Fortunately, we were not in a hurry, so we just sort of ignored it. The papers that we got had said our passports would be ready for pickup at 9:15, but about 8:15 an announcement came across the loudspeaker saying that the passports were available for pickup. MISC NOTES AND IMPRESSIONS: I loved the more laid back atmosphere of the Italian cruise line, I did not feel like MSC was trying to make sure that I was fully entertained at every minute of the day. There appeared to be 1 activity at every time slot, rather then multiple things at all times. I did not feel at all pressured to buy drinks, it was perfectly acceptable to sit in the bars and listen to music, we were generally only asked once if we wanted something to drink- I enjoyed this. Having everything done in 5 languages, and struggling some to communicate, tired me more than I thought it would. I also discovered how much American slang I use in every day speech. (ie- in response to a question such as would you like more bread, if I say "I'm okay" more bread is likely to appear, when what I really meant was no.) The elevators were quite crowded, and fellow passengers did not help this. It appeared that most people simply got in the first elevator that came, whether or not it was going the way they wanted to go- and rode it until it got to where they wanted to be. This did not help with crowding, we generally avoided this by taking the stairs. I was quite surprised at how many children were at the second seating. At the tables near us there were several children under the age of 5, who were not coping with the late long dinner well. They spent a significant amount of time rolling on the floor, which was a constant threat to our poor waiter trying to step over them. At one point a child knocked over an ice bucket into my husband's lap (this did result in him getting taken out of the dining room.) I was even more surprised by MSC's decision to pass out noisemakers to the children at dinner on New Year's eve- they blew them all through dinner this was REALLY annoying. On our formal nights, people were VERY dressed up- this might have been because one was NYE. There were several men in tuxes, and almost all other men were in nice dark suits. Women were more mixed, but very well dressed over all. The weather was better than I expected it would be- we were generally comfortable in long sleeve t-shirts, and it only rained the day we embarked. The seas were very choppy- I felt the motion of the boat much more than I had in the Caribbean last January. (This directly contradicted what our travel agent had told us- that the Caribbean was choppier than the Med, he was wrong- but then again he was wrong about most of the things he had told us, so this doesn't really surprise me.) Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We are not novices to cruising as this was our 39th cruise. We are gold card members of the MSC line. Until this sailing, MSC has been our favorite cruise line. Unfortunately the service made us feel like unwanted relatives on the ... Read More
We are not novices to cruising as this was our 39th cruise. We are gold card members of the MSC line. Until this sailing, MSC has been our favorite cruise line. Unfortunately the service made us feel like unwanted relatives on the Orchestra. We have had better and worse embarkations thus nothing worth writing about. It was upon entering the ship our problems began. Our adult son came with us since this was a Christmas and New year's vacation. Upon boarding he went to the Receptionist Desk to give them cash so he could open up his onboard account. When he tried to tell the receptionist what he wanted to do she told him "if he would shut up and listen." I was standing by him or I might not have believed a customer relations person would talk that way to a passenger. We are loyal past passengers and get treated this way. Strike one within ten minutes of boarding. Other cruise lines show you to your cabin and some even offer a glass of champagne. None of that here. You are on your own to find your cabin. Being hungry we went up to deck 13 for something to eat. Another disappointment. The food was tasteless and all the salads looked and tasted the same. There were only two variety of cakes for dessert. Little did we know this was to be the case for the entire cruise. Our first dinner foretold what was ahead for the next 17 days. We never saw a steak the entire trip. Fish served every meal but over cooked and quite dry. Chicken every meal and again over cooked. We ordered pasta the first night (remembering how wonderful the pasta was on the Opera.) To our surprise it was tasteless except for a rancid, metallic taste. No one at our table could eat it. In 17 days we had truly good pasta only two times. Service in the dining room was bad to pitiful. We were at a table for 6 and one person would get their dish while the rest would wait 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes we were served the wrong orders. Other times we never got what we ordered. Sometimes we would get our food but have no silverware to eat it with. Dinner always took around two hours. Everyday except for three we went to the "formal" dining room for lunch. Imagine our surprise to have to go through a cafeteria line (buffet) at lunch in the formal dining room. No menu service. Again the food was tasteless. In all our cruises this was a first. Christmas Eve we could have "prime rib" or lobster. Everyone at our table and next to us agreed the "prime rib" was merely a small piece of over cooked roast beef. The lobster was soooo large we took three bites and it was gone. Also, I was told fourteen passengers ended up in the infirmary ill after eating the lobster. Unfortunately the food never improved the entire cruise. I had occasion to speak with Marcello, the Guest Relations manager. He told me he was a "chef" and that Italians do not cook with spices. I wondered if he thought I had dropped here from another planet. Especially since my husband is 1/2 Italian. Day two we slept in and did not leave our cabin until 10:10 am. Imagine our surprise to find it was not possible to find anything to eat on the ship until noon. The restaurant closed at 9:30 am everyday of the trip. The deck 13 cafeteria (buffet) closed at 10:00 am. No rolls, croissants, nothing. Our cabin was always very clean and our room steward had a handicap as our adult son would stay out quite late and thus get up very late. Our steward never complained and graciously worked around our night owl. We were quite happy with our service in this area. The productions shows were good and the costumes were beautiful. The were four African men who were acrobats. They were truly wonderful. The magician and illusionist were acceptable. One night there was no show at all and three nights the show consisted entirely of groups which played every night in the atrium lounge. These three nights were poorly attended since we saw them every night anyway when passing by the atrium. The Entertainment (Animation) Team on MSC really work hard and extremely long hours. These young people were no exception. They danced with passengers every single evening until 1 or 2 am. They had Italian lessons, trivia games, crazy games, dance lessons, etc. From nine in the morning until two am they were very visible and working hard. They truly made this voyage bearable. The cruise director on the other hand was very aloof and seldom said anything to the passengers. The ships lounge performers were generally good. We especially liked the Popcorn Band and their singer, Romanica. She has a truly lovely voice and is very friendly and outgoing. On the Opera you could not get on the ship or go into an eating facility without a crew member squirting you with hand sanitizer. Imagine our surprise when we cannot even find the sanitizer on deck 13 four four days. It was behind a door. Quite often when getting back on the ship or entering the dining room the hand sanitizer was empty. There was never any crew in sight the entire trip checking on this. Something we have never seen before was that none of the ships shops were open until the fourth day of our cruise. Christmas decorations (such as they were) did not appear until day four and five of our cruise. We heard several passengers complain because the ship never put up a Menorah even though we were cruising during Hanukah. There were never any Christmas Carols, no egg nog, no special Christmas show Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. A passenger chorus sang prior to midnight mass which was held at 11:00. Other than Santa for the children Christmas Day might as well have been any other day of the year. Get this the Orchestra had a Friends of Bill W. meeting in the Savannah "Bar." Our past passenger party was not until December 28 which is when we got our "welcome cocktail." It took three phone calls to get the invitation which we finally received 10 minutes prior to the party. Only ONE cocktail is permitted per passenger. No canapes. Since Saint Thomas is the first U.S. port this is where the immigration procedures were done. What a mess. We got a paper which I am quoting "instructions for passengers NON USA and Canada." We get a knock on our door and were chastised for not going through customs. I showed the person our form and he said we did not know how to read and must go right away. We stood in line for one hour to have a ship officer glance at our passport and put a sticker on it so we could get off the ship and go into town. The last week of the cruise many of the passengers and some of the crew got a hacking cough, sore throat and fever. My son and spouse both had to go to the infirmary for medicine. They were told there was not an outbreak of illness. However, the ship sounded like a T.B. ward. A couple of passengers said they had contacted the Center for Disease Control because of the ships denial and the lack of sanitization. We have cruised so many times, we know there are always a few disgruntled passengers but we have never talked to so many people who were so angry. People from nearly every country we spoke with expressed their displeasure with the Orchestra. We only met three people who seemed happy with the cruise. We found out they were on their first cruise. Disembarkation was truly a nightmare. Everyone had to be out of their cabin by 7:00 am. Breakfast was closed at 8:30 am. Nobody was allowed off the ship until after 10:30 am. There was an announcement about 9:00 am blaming the Immigration Department for the hold up. Since we had a 12:30 train home we were getting quite nervous. I went to the Receptionist and she said she could not give me a different colored tag. (Ours was over half way down the list to be called.) She then said they could not "force" anyone to stay on the ship. We spoke with some people sitting near us and they had 7:00 to 8:00 evening flights and had the first colored tags to be called. We slipped in line when the first tags were called and upon reaching the baggage area off the ship found our luggage had not even been taken off the ship yet. We spoke to someone in Immigration and were told they were ready by 9:00 am to clear the Orchestra's passengers but the ship is under staffed and that was why it was taking so long. Many a time I have gone on Cruise Critic to defend MSC, telling the detractors how wonderful MSC is. I now feel a need to apologize to my fellow Cruise Critic's for misleading them. What has happened to my beloved MSC??? Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The MSC Cruise line is for the birds. If you plan a cruise DO NOT CHOOSE MSC CRUISE LINES. It is a very boring place to be. The food was terrible-horrible-everything was either undercooked or overcooked....they even screwed up corn ... Read More
The MSC Cruise line is for the birds. If you plan a cruise DO NOT CHOOSE MSC CRUISE LINES. It is a very boring place to be. The food was terrible-horrible-everything was either undercooked or overcooked....they even screwed up corn flakes (I lived on French fries and tomatoes for 17 days)...... there were no trained crew members everybody was new and spoke very little English if any at all....there were 16 decks on this ship and 2...yes 2...Christmas trees..no decorations.........no Christmas music......they had no planned organized fun things to do except stretching exercises and bingo and that was ill organized........Bingo cards cost $10 for one card......I paid extra for a smoking balcony and they did not allow smoking on balconies.......they charge 3% for cashing travelers checks.......the only deck party they had was New Year's Eve....no ice carvings and grand buffet on the last night as ships usually do...the nightly shows (except 2) were all operatic and classical.....no religious Christmas services except for Catholics.....the first and second days they had no night time buffet so you had to eat in the dining room whether you wanted to or not, then they had so many complaints that they had to open a buffet at night.....you had to pay for pizza...you had to pay for ice cream...one man had to pay $3.50 for a glass of crushed ice.....there were two big fights on the ship....no movie theater or free movies....the first few days they had 10 free movies but so many people were so bored they were staying in the cabins watching them so they took them off.....one couple got off in Casablanca and flew themselves home and another two couples got off in San Juan....... We had to beg for bananas...beg for doughnuts...they kept these things under the counter...... they did not ever have any milk although people were asking for it....until about 5 days into the cruise after thousands of complaints we didn't even get coffee except at mealtimes and on every cruise I have been on there are coffee and juices 24 hours a day.... One more thing...there were no hand sanitizers until we got to American territory and inspection time. They were hidden under the counters too. A lot of people caught colds and were in bed for a period of time....Clarence was one of them for 4 days. There were about 3K + travelers on this cruise and 2900 of them swear they will never go on another MSC Cruise Line. Everybody was complaining from all countries. If you sat down at a table or somewhere with a complete stranger, all that was talked about was how bad the ships crew, the service, and the organization was....especially the food. Everybody was teed off because the only vegetables were cauliflower, broccoli, and shredded carrots. We finally got some potatoes. They were also upset because all the deserts were the same with just different colored icing. The food was horrible in all restaurants because we tried them all trying to find something fit to eat. This is the only cruise line we have ever been on that we LOST weight. The productions shows were good and the costumes were beautiful. The were four African men who were acrobats. They were truly wonderful. The magician and illusionist were acceptable. One night there was no show at all and three nights the show consisted entirely of groups which played every night in the atrium lounge. These three nights were poorly attended since we saw them every night anyway when passing by the atrium. The Entertainment (Animation) Team on MSC really work hard and extremely long hours. These young people were no exception. They danced with passengers every single evening until 1 or 2 am. They had Italian lessons, trivia games, crazy games, dance lessons, etc. From nine in the morning until two am they were very visible and working hard. They truly made this voyage bearable. The cruise director on the other hand was very aloof and seldom said anything to the passengers. The ships lounge performers were generally good. We especially liked the Popcorn Band and their singer, Romanica. She has a truly lovely voice and is very friendly and outgoing. On our other cruises you could not get on the ship or go into an eating facility without a crew member squirting you with hand sanitizer. Imagine our surprise when we cannot even find the sanitizer on deck 13 four four days. It was behind a door. Quite often when getting back on the ship or entering the dining room the hand sanitizer was empty. There was never any crew in sight the entire trip checking on this. At one point I asked a crew member for the hand sanitizer, he sent me to the toilet. It took about three hours to get onto the ship and nearly six hours to get off. They ran us out of our rooms at 7AM (which was a first for us) and gathered all 3K+ into two small bars and then the Captain did not have some type of paperwork that America requires and we waited nearly six hours to get off. That is with no water, food or anything else and no place for all of us to sit. We were sitting on the stairs, laying in the floor, sitting on the bar and nearly hanging from the rafters. Children were irritable, crying...it was a fiasco. and I could go on and on but I bet you are tired of reading by now. However, the itinerary was great and off the ship we saw a lot of good stuff. We made several good friends and they helped to make the trip from becoming a complete disaster. So if you want to punish your friends and get even with your enemies..send them on an MSC CRUISE LINE FOR A FEW DAYS. Not us though, we will never cruise MSC again. The nicest people on the ship were both working on Deck 13. There names are Arie from Bali and Miriam from Peru. This was our first MSC Cruise and although we cruise at least twice yearly and sometimes more. This will be our last MSC Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We booked this special Christmas cruise for our family of 5, and the fact that we were all together at Christmas was the only saving grace for this appalling debacle which was the MSC Fantasia maiden cruise. We arrived in Genoa to total ... Read More
We booked this special Christmas cruise for our family of 5, and the fact that we were all together at Christmas was the only saving grace for this appalling debacle which was the MSC Fantasia maiden cruise. We arrived in Genoa to total chaos. Embarkation was dangerous due to the fact that nearly 4,000 people arrived in a very short space of time to check in. Some children were trampled and two people fainted. There was no organization by the port staff (which was MSC's final excuse, even though it was the Fantasia staff on the ground checking people in!) It took over 2 hours for us to get on board (some people were waiting for almost 5 hours). There was no proper explanation and certainly no apologies. When we got to the front of the queue, we were quite understandably unhappy about the situation, but the staff member said he didn't speak English (we later found out that he did, quite well!). We had booked our cruise direct with MSC in the UK and had booked first sitting, but were given the second sitting. We were directed to the maitre'd on the ship, but found a whole line of others trying to change their dining arrangements. The maitre'd refused to do anything for anyone. I guess we were lucky really, at least our party was all seated together; some parties were put on different tables, different dining rooms at different sittings! I guess we were also quite lucky with our cabins. We had booked two particular cabins adjacent to each other and actually got what we had booked. Some parties were split up onto different decks at different parts of the ship. Apparently MSC's response to this was "we put people where we want them and not necessarily where they want to be" - how nice and very customer friendly! The ship is undoubtedly beautiful and was spotlessly clean and tidy all the time - there were staff constantly cleaning and polishing, and our cabin stewards were helpful, cheerful and friendly, as were most of the bar staff. Unfortunately, the people who really needed to be all of the above were not. The reception and information staff were at best surly and at worst downright rude. According to MSC all staff speak 5 languages - what they omitted to say was that no one spoke any one language well enough to hold a conversation with foreign guests, certainly not the English ones! -We were constantly reminded to wash our hands to help avoid spreading germs and told that we must use the disinfectant handwash stations throughout the ship - there were NONE anywhere! -We found that everything on the ship was to pay for, even water on the dining table. We did manage to get a jug of tap water after some time trying. There was not even water in the gym, just a juice bar selling drinks! -The cafeteria was always extremely busy and chaotic and was only open certain hours (not most of the day like other cruise lines). On port days, MSC seemed to like having visitors aboard and offered them lunch in the cafeteria which only added to the problem of overcrowding as well as their being no proper security (as far as we could see the visitors did not have to go through security before boarding,even though we did). -The restaurant food was quite good with 7 courses offered every night. MSC advertise several other restaurants on board in you fancy a change to the main restaurants but all are to pay for. -The evening entertainment in the theatre was adequate but the performers still appeared to be learning their routines - surely something which should have been done prior to the maiden cruise! -DO NOT SAIL WITH MSC unless you like an inefficient, unorganized cruise line, indifferent staff and have nothing better to spend your money on. If having read all of the above you decide to still book with MSC, stay away from having a cabin at the back of the ship - the vibration was bad all the time and absolutely horrendous when the ship was maneuvering into port. Someone on board who knew about these things said there was definitely a misalignment with one of the pods. If you have already booked with MSC despite all the poor reviews (as we did, thinking that the launch of their new flagship would surely change the way they operate - unfortunately they did not!) GOOD LUCK and I hope it improves for your cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We boarded MSC's Poesia with an open mind. I have read many poor reviews, but we paid a very reasonable price for an 11 night Christmas family cruise, and you shouldn't expect to get champagne if you pay only for sparking wine! ... Read More
We boarded MSC's Poesia with an open mind. I have read many poor reviews, but we paid a very reasonable price for an 11 night Christmas family cruise, and you shouldn't expect to get champagne if you pay only for sparking wine! The ship is quite superb! It is among the best I have ever sailed on, public rooms were attractive and in very good taste, and kept immaculate. Cabins were kept beautifully clean, and are spacious and more than adequate. We encountered very heavy seas on more than one occasion, and this large vessel coped well with the conditions. We were on a winter cruise, but did note that the lack of open deck space might be an issue in a warmer climate where more time would be spent outdoors. The food onboard was very hit and miss. As other reviews suggest, if your taste is conservative (steaks, lobsters, roasts) then go elsewhere, but if you are prepared to try the Italian flavors, the risottos, pastas, soups and salads were generally quite good. I would say, however, that whilst we always managed to find something fit to eat, none of the meals would really rate as much more than adequate. Getting really hot food seemed virtually impossible, with the exception of breakfasts in the main dining room. MSC prices are initially inviting, but onboard drinks and extras mean that overall it's not as cheap as it seems. Mineral water is charged for, which I had expected, but the excessive charges soon accumulate, although the euro exchange rate is hardly MSC's fault, and that is partly responsible. We allowed our son just two tins per day of his favorite soft drink, but that alone put £70 on our bill at 2.8 euros a time. We did learn to buy water ashore, and chill it in the minibar which we had asked the maid to empty, but alcoholic drinks could not be brought onboard, and were sold at astronomical prices. A gin and tonic set me back 5.8 euros, and wines too were charged at high prices. A beer package, which was 14 glasses of 40cl of lager, was 59 euros Our son, aged 14, didn't attend the kids club as he was the only English speaker on day one, and didn't go back, but he did eventually meet other teens and have some fun. Many other little charges contribute to the bill. We were able to walk rather than use shuttle buses, but at 7 euros for a five minute drive, I'm glad we're able bodied. We rarely take shore excursions, (as the are usually an expensive rip-off on every cruise line afloat) but MSC even charge 50 cents for the photocopied port maps usually given out free of charge. The entertainment was also hit and miss. Singers in the bars were little better than poor pub karaoke standard, with one exception. Frequenze Retro, the gypsy jazz band who played every night in the wine bar, were quite exceptional, and possibly the best onboard band I have ever seen. We have cruised with several lines, and unfortunately can't recommend MSC for us. The prices of better quality lines such as Cunard and RCL may initially seem more, but MSC get the cash from your pocket in the end. If, however, you don't drink, are not too fussy about your food, and don't need transport ashore, you just might manage a bargain cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Poesia Xmas 2008 Embarkation in Genoa was the usual organized chaos we have come to expect from MSC. Our scheduled sailing time was 16.00, so we arrived at 15.00, having checked in on-line. With MSC Club priority boarding we expected to ... Read More
Poesia Xmas 2008 Embarkation in Genoa was the usual organized chaos we have come to expect from MSC. Our scheduled sailing time was 16.00, so we arrived at 15.00, having checked in on-line. With MSC Club priority boarding we expected to waltz straight on board. Hope springs eternal! In fact we got our cruise cards right away, but were then given a boarding number and asked to go into a waiting room full of hundreds of passengers. No thanks. We went off for a drink in the bar in the terminal. Twice. We finally boarded at 16.15, having waited for ten minutes for security. Someone told me we eventually set sail at 18.00. First impressions of the ship were as expected, with everything ship-shape as it should be on a six month old ship. She really is a magnificent vessel. The public rooms and staterooms are tastefully decorated, and everything is pristine. I witnessed officers and crew alike, constantly running their fingers over every flat surface in a hunt for the slightest speck of dust. Our balcony stateroom on deck twelve aft was nicely furnished, with a reasonable size shower room, and very comfortable. Unfortunately it suffered from terribly unpleasant vibration at eighteen knots plus in a rough sea, gale force 8. Others reported vibration from their cabins in that same area. One phoned reception to complain and the Chief Housekeeper came to investigate. They should have sent the Naval Architect who designed the darned thing! The Grappolo d'Oro is a nice bar with Italian snacks (chargeable)where they serve a good selection of quality Italian wines, that are not on the regular wine list. There is also a knowledgeable sommelier (the only one on the ship) to discuss our wine choices. The passenger mix is predominantly German, with many Italians, Brits, a sprinkling of Yanks and then lots of other nationalities. We travelled on her sister ship Musica a year ago and had a great time. Unfortunately, since then cost-cutting accountants appear to have taken over the helm, and examples of penny-pinching abound. There is a 4 Euros minimum internet charge, 4.40 Euros to log on to the GSM phone system, plus call charges on top. No tap water is served at table in the restaurant - you must pay through the nose for bottled. The "speciality" restaurant (really just a section of the buffet with tablecloths on) has an 18 Euros supplemental charge, and guess what? - a supplement of 8 Euros on top of that if you want shrimp! 10-15 Euros to watch a year-old movie on your TV? The orange "juice" served for breakfast appears to be the "nectar" type, i.e. 25% juice and 75% sugar water. You can buy freshly squeezed juice: nearly 4 Euros for a small glass. A photocopied city map from the tour office? 50c! A pizza in the evening? 7 Euros. A free daily newsletter with news and sports results from home? You must be joking! At the Captain's Cocktail party, only the four drinks on the waiter's tray are available, and they wait till the room is half full before serving you any drink, so as to cut down on consumption. You can't even buy a drink whilst you are waiting, as the tills are not open. But the nickel and diming is at its absolute worst in the buffet at lunch. The ice and hot and cold water machines are shuttered and padlocked like Fort Knox, in case you try to get a free glass, and there is a notice on the water dispenser warning "It is not permitted to fill your own bottle", for when the vault is unlocked during the breakfast buffet. The food budget has been cut to the bone. On the first Gala night, thin slices of fillet of beef were the only steak option. The same on another Gala night. In fact all the steak choices were thin slices, rather than a whole steak. I have recently come off Oceania line where you could have a 32 oz Porterhouse every night, Cardiologist permitting! When lobster was served it was only half a tail from a small specimen. No smoked salmon is offered on the breakfast menu. The buffet menu at breakfast and lunch appears virtually identical to the fare on offer in the restaurant. There is nowhere to eat from 2.30 until your dinner service in the main dining rooms, unless you pay. The buffet re-opens at night as a paid for pizzeria. The food in general is very tasty, with excellent breads and patisserie. Do not expect gourmet cuisine or any prime cuts. One day the roast of the day in the buffet was meatloaf. Some of my tablemates had a problem with the temperature of the food as served, complaining "It's not hot enough." I asked for a bottle of Tabasco to be set on the table, and invited them to use that instead of sending the plate back They have never had an orchestra on MSC in recent years, which means the theatre shows are performed to recorded music. Don't expect epic productions like on Celebrity or Cunard, but the entertainment is just about OK. The "Atlantis" show is well executed. We saw an excellent magician, Martin, and a superb shadow lamp exponent who produced the most amazing shadow characters with just his hands. There is very little to do on sea-days or half days at sea if it's cold or raining, unless you fancy a multi-lingual quiz or bingo. There are amateurish ad-hoc "shows" performed by the cruise staff in various lounges. They are a bit of a laugh and help you while away the time whilst waiting for the next port of call! There are umpteen TV channels with about four broadcasting news in English; Sky, CNN, CNBC, Russia Today, but otherwise, only pay TV films. We had poor weather most days, so no sunbathing. We longed to be able to watch the old re-runs of Lucy, Bonanza, Frasier, and The Beverly Hillbillies etc. that seem to be on a permanent loop on other lines. Some of the Purser's staff seem to have a "no can do" attitude. There are something like twelve to fifteen red-clad girls on the front desk, some of whom seem to have been specially selected for their stupidity. Perhaps a brain with a flair for languages is balanced by a deficiency in the part of the brain that deals with common sense! There is virtually no Concierge service available, as the whole set-up seems geared to selling you expensive ship's tours at 40-109 Euros a pop. A simple request to the front desk for a paper print out of a single page railway timetable from a specific website was met with every excuse why this was not possible, including: "You can see it in the Cyber Cafe" "There's no printer there" "You can get it on your laptop" "I don't have a printer" This proved an insurmountable task for the receptionist. I got the print-out myself in minutes from an internet cafe in third-world Egypt. It took five visits to the accounts office to claim my 200 Euros on-board credit promised by my travel agent, and it eventually appeared in two instalments of 100 Euros, days apart. In the wine bar, there are a number of flat screen TV's. I and one of the staff were watching cricket on one screen. A "Purser Cadet" appeared on the scene, demanded the remote control, and proceeded to change the TV to the ship's promotional channel showing exactly the same programming as the other TV's. Apparently, it's "impossible" to watch a sports channel, as all the screens must show the MSC propaganda videos simultaneously in perpetuity. The wi-fi connection is patchy, slow and expensive, so we didn't bother after an initial attempt in the cyber cafe, as the cost was 25 Euros an hour. I had no signal in my stateroom, 12180. We were surprised that the excellent cabin stewards seemed to know when we were home, because we were never disturbed by them barging in to "do" the room. I wondered if they had CCTV surveillance in their pantry, but it turns out when you put your key card in the slot to turn the cabin lights on, it also illuminates a little amber warning light above the door to show the room is occupied. Don't buck the system by leaving a business card in the slot when vacating the room, otherwise you'll wait all day to get your room serviced! Some passengers had an issue with tipping, as all tips are pooled between the whole crew and around 40% goes to management, who are already on decent money paid in Euros with pensions and European-type employment contracts. The third world staff on ten month contracts who need the money, supporting extended families at home are thus short changed. Many of the bedroom stewards and cleaning staff come from Madagascar. MSC must have found they will work for less than Filipinos. However, if you go to the cash desk to remove the automatic tips, there is a notice: "Staff are not allowed to receive their tips directly in cash". You betcha! See if they turn down cash. They did not! All in all, MSC provides a pleasant enough cruise experience, better than the Carnival and Costa ships we have travelled on. We enjoyed this voyage, which was very reasonably priced for a Christmas cruise. However, following the changes, MSC is not for us either. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Firstly the positives about the Christmas cruise on the Poesia: We sailed through some very heavy sea's with little, if any, discomfort for the passengers. The ship is a credit to modern cruise ship design. The cabins and the ... Read More
Firstly the positives about the Christmas cruise on the Poesia: We sailed through some very heavy sea's with little, if any, discomfort for the passengers. The ship is a credit to modern cruise ship design. The cabins and the staff servicing them were very good. The public area's were tastefully decorated and kept very clean. The negatives would have to be: Slow embarkation. The European staff on board seemed to come from the 'the customer is always wrong' school of training. There was a large staff rotation on the ship for this cruise - many didn't appeared to have been trained properly. Lack of dining choice in the evening. If you don't want to eat in the restaurant there is no buffet alternative. The only other choice to pay extra in one of the other restaurants. The food was very disappointing. Having eaten well in Italy on many occasions I was looking forward to a great culinary experience. The food, apart from being permanently lukewarm, never achieved the 'wow' factor and was for the most part very ordinary. There was not free water with the meals - bottles had to be paid for. With the exception of the band in the wine bar, who were the highlight of the cruise for me, the entertainment in the lounges was mediocre. The casino was lacking in any atmosphere, principally I suspect because at €5 per hand customers couldn't afford to stay there for very long. I know I would have spent more time in there, and inevitably spent more money had the prices been more reasonable. Overcharging. Beer was €4.90 for 440ml (or £6.32 a pint), wine could be up to €7 a glass (although more normally €3 for house, but this wasn't a large glass). €5.80 for a gin & tonic and €7 for a shuttle bus at the port. I felt that charging premium prices to a captive audience really was and is not acceptable. This was my sixth cruise and the first time I have ever been disappointed. I find it hard to imagine sailing with MSC again. There are many other cruise lines in the market, so why risk your hard earned cash and valuable holiday with MSC? Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I have to admit this cruise was chosen based on itinerary, itinerary and itinerary. In fact there are very few cruise lines that would have turned me off based on a ship when looking at such a port intensive schedule of Katakolon-Olympia, ... Read More
I have to admit this cruise was chosen based on itinerary, itinerary and itinerary. In fact there are very few cruise lines that would have turned me off based on a ship when looking at such a port intensive schedule of Katakolon-Olympia, Pireaus-Athens, Rhodes, Cyprus, Alexandria, Crete, Marmaris and Naples. In any event, I was prepared for things to be different after reading so many negative reviews posted mostly by Americans, and was surprised it was not as different or problematic as I feared it might be. Then again, I have never had a truly "bad" cruise, so maybe my standards are flexible. We traveled with my two older stepkids, both of whom have contributed to this review. One draw of this cruise in addition to the itinerary was that kids sail free, but the catch is that they have to be in a room with two paying passengers so you are in essence waiving the 3/4 fee. Embarkation- We embarked in Genoa which has a beautiful cruise port building, but unfortunately was not the one we used. Just like many other companies, MSC offers online check-in.... and just like most of the lines that do this, it means nothing as far as being able to wait in some type of priority or express line. Actually, the checking in part only took about 15 minutes of waiting in line, but then you are assigned a number to be called while you sit in a large waiting area. The convenient part about this is that while you wait you can book your excursions, beverage packages, spa treatments and kids club memberships. None of these things can be booked in advance online as with other cruise lines, so it was helpful although a bit hectic and loud. We booked excursions for Turkey, Egypt and Naples only... I am fluent in Greek so I prefer we navigate ourselves in the Greek-speaking ports. We did not buy any soda or wine packages because they all had limited amounts of beverages rather than the unlimited type soda cards you see on most lines. Also, because we were US citizens we were given a free bottled water package. I had heard about before because as was later confirmed, there is no ice water served at meals. One thing I noticed which bugged me was that they print your room number on your key card. Apparently MSC is run by the same people who label their house keys with their home address in case they get lost. Nationality- I will start with languages.... more than half of the passengers spoke German, with about 20% Italian, 20% English and the rest spoke French. I must say that the crew, particularly for such a young staff, were excellent in their ability to communicate with most passengers. With the exception of one Ukrainian bartender who spoke no English, I did not have any trouble communicating on the ship. Because of my appearance most people started off assuming I was Italian, and my "Io no capisco l'Italiano" might have confused them further because I pronounced it too properly for someone who doesn't speak the language. Neither DH or the kids had problems either, but I think the kids really did learn how helpful it is to speak several languages. As far as the actual nationalities of the passengers, I would say that nearly two thirds of the passengers were German, the rest being an even mix of Italians, British, French, American and Chinese. The crew was mostly Italian in the entertainment and managerial staff, and Southeast Asian in the dining room and housekeeping crew. The Poesia is a brand new ship, sailing only since this past April, so many of the crew had never worked on a ship before but it did not seem to show. The Ship- Not what you would expect.... from what I had heard about MSC I was afraid it would be over the top with Vegas-style glitz, however with the exception of the Zebra Lounge and the stairwell carpets, I found most of the decor in the public rooms to be understated.... neutral tones in the dining room, muted pastels in many of the lounges... one exception was the Carlos Felice Theater, where purple seats looked a bit like a Barney explosion, but for the most part it did not have the tacky feel I had feared..... which brings me to The Cabin- We were in a balcony cabin on Deck 12, and an escort was assigned to help us find our room. The cabin was just big enough for the 4 of us but would not have held 4 adults comfortably. I would say bigger than NCL but smaller than Carnival.... probably most comparable to RCL. The love seat opened into a bed and there was a wall bunk that folded down at night for the 4th person. Matthew "called" the bunk which was just fine with Lizzie. The decor with its black and red bedspread was a little sharp, very Italian designer looking but not too over the top. The beds were comfortable and I did not wake up with any back pain as I often do when sleeping in cheaper beds. In order to save energy, MSC has a system rigged into the rooms where if you don't have a card inside the power slot, the lights will shut off after 5 or 10 minutes. Each room also has 2 US (110) and 2 EUR (220) power outlets at the desk . I brought a plug adapter so we were able to use all of the outlets. The bathroom was also on the small side, again comparable to RCL for those who are familiar with it. Very good water pressure and temperature in the shower. One minor annoyance was the shower curtain that stuck to you while showering and the fact that MSC doesn't provide washcloths for some reason. Also, the bathroom is not ventilated and has no fan which means it gets more wet than usual during a shower. An odd regulation, smoking is not permitted on balconies but is allowed in cabins. We were only one deck below the smoking section on Lido and I am a "drinking-only" smoker so it wasn't much of an issue, but still a strange rule. The room had a minibar fridge with some room for your own items where I kept some Baily's and small bottles of water. There is confusion about what you are and are not allowed to bring on the ship with respect to beverages... there may be a written rule about all beverages, alcoholic or not, but I did not see any enforcement of this, in fact any water bottles we bought in ports we were allowed to bring right in. There seems to be a major control issue on board with beverages, bringing me to the next category- Dining Choices- 1. Buffet- We had our first meal in what they call the Cafeteria, which was very convenient to our room being right up the stairs. Lunch time had a pizza section, grill, and hot buffet section with different types of pasta, meats, potatoes and vegetables. There are NO self-serve beverages, and the only drinks which are included at lunch time are coffee, tea and water which are brought to you by the waitstaff. The water comes in tiny glasses of about 3-4 ounces... kind of like we had in elementary school. During breakfast you can have one of 5 or 6 different kinds of juice but again, they are served to you by the waitstaff in the little glasses. I can understand why there is some control on this because I have noticed on other lines that the greatest waste appears to be with beverages, but I think the small glasses OR no self-serve would have accomplished this goal well enough. Anyway, we didn't eat many meals in the buffet except breakfasts and that was only because of the convenience. Lunches we mostly ate either in port or occasionally in the dining rooms where they had open-seating except at dinner time. One should note that there is NO buffet service at dinner time.... you eat in the dining room or you pay for alternate dining or room service. The room service menu is all cold options and the restaurants are a la carte rather than one price. We didn't use any of these choices except once in a while the evening pizza which is 6 Euros for an 18 inch pie. On formal evenings there would be a late-night buffet which we didn't attend, and other nights there would be what the program listed as a "buffet" in the lounges but it was a lie... just a few waiters walking around serving hot hors d'oeuvres with drinks. There is also free afternoon tea every day in the Buffet... you wait on line for your tea or coffee, and there are a few different types of sandwiches and desserts available self-serve style. 2. Dining Room- As I mentioned earlier, there is no ice water served in the dining room, so all beverages except coffee must be purchased. We had our voucher for free bottled water which was really only enough for two people per meal, so we would end up buying a second bottle for the kids. They didn't like the Pellegrino that Peter and I ordered so we got them the non-carbonated equivalent. There were many course choices for meals, both at lunch and dinner.... these included appetizers, soups, salads, pasta & rice and main courses. One of the major complaints I have seen in reviews are with the food quality, and while I must admit the meals were nothing to write home about, they certainly weren't inedible. Since even the QE2 Princess Grill occasionally disappointed me on the final transatlantic with frozen french fries and American cheese-food, I don't think I can criticize the Poesia in their European style of cuisine. I think the food preparation is just done in a way we are not used to.... for example, the lobster was served cut in half with marinara sauce over it. This is probably common in parts of continental Europe, so I think when booking MSC or any European based line you have to remember who their passenger base is. As I said earlier I knew going in that this cruise experience, especially the cuisine, would be different and of course I was not disappointed in that expectation. Entertainment- We didn't take part in most of the entertainment except the trivia quizzes and we even won a couple, but from what people told me the live entertainment was very good. I had some issues with trivia, as those of you who have sailed with us before know, with the official answers being wrong (i.e. the Smithsonian, not the Louvre, is the world's largest museum) however I was again impressed with the crew and their ability to conduct these quizzes in several languages. As far as activities are concerned, there is not a lot of information in the programs and some things are not listed at all. Some events have ambiguous names and you don't have any idea what they are talking about such as "Mime Mix" and "Coffee Game" with no descriptions. The kids advise that the arcade is very expensive at one Euro or more per game, with each game lasting less than a minute. Also the pools and jacuzzi close at 7pm The in-room television seems to incorporate some cultural stereotypes. The only thing in English are news stations.... movies are all in German and sitcoms are in Italian. It is a very nice flat-screen TV and has ports for a portable DVD, but not useful if you are the type who likes some down time in your room while waiting for dinner or for your kids to get ready. Additionally, there are local stations such as a webcam on the bow, another on the Lido deck so you can see how crowded it is, but for the most part we used the TV for the navigational channel to see where we were on the map. They also have a pay-per-view movie service but those are rather costly at 14 Euros each. Internet service is available in your room with an Ethernet cable, or wireless in various public areas on the ship. I paid 80 Euros for 250 minutes which was plenty for 11 days, particularly with such a port-intensive itinerary. Some of the ports were only half-days though, so it was helpful to have the service. I did not visit the Library, however Peter did and found it lacking.... no periodicals and all books were novels with no history books or reference books such as atlases or dictionaries. Service- Dining room service was excellent... polite, punctual and never any problems with orders or special requests. The room steward on the other hand, not so much. Ice was never brought to the room unless I chased him down, and our glasses kept disappearing. Each time I would use a glass it would get taken without being replaced with a clean one. This may have to do with their obsessive beverage control issues. Also, if on occasion one of the kids was still in the room when he came by, even for just five minutes, he would never come back to see if he could clean the room. To his credit, he did fold all of the kids' clothes when they left them around, and I feel bad he had to deal with their disorganized habits. Attire- We were never given a list of expected attire prior to the cruise, other than that there are generally two formal nights on an 11-night cruise. In actuality there were 4 formal nights, 2 informal and the rest were casual. We only participated in two formal nights because we didn't bring enough to wear and didn't really feel up to dressing up after long intensive port days... on those nights we stayed in the room and ordered pizza. Ports and Excursions- This is where MSC shines.... hardly any lines getting on or off the ship and good quality excursions for the most part. We were early birds for the ports that we did free-style and sometimes the first ones out. The only complaint I had was the chaotic assembly for the Egypt excursions, but I think this was just because there were so many people who booked them. Katakolon- we rented a car and drove to Olympia, spent about two hours at the ruins, then came back and spent the rest of the time in town shopping and having lunch on shore with a view of the ship. It was one of my favorite port visits this cruise and the kids enjoyed it as well. They loved taking pictures of the stray dogs and cats which are prevalent in little towns like this. Athens- we took the Metro to the Acropolis where we spent about an hour or so, then walked to the 1896 Olympic Stadium, then took the Metro to Likavitos mountain where we climbed to the top. Yes, that is right, we climbed all the way because I couldn't remember where the blasted elevator was... oh well, it was good exercise and we really earned the overpriced meal we had in the restaurant. You want to leave the city about an hour before all aboard call, because of the time it takes to get back to Piraeus as well as the walk to the ship from the Metro station. Rhodes- my favorite island, in fact my third time here and unfortunately it rained all day. Tried to rent a car but no one was open since we pulled into port at 7am, so Lindos was out. Instead we walked around the Old Town and had lunch at a gyro place, which is the Greek equivalent of fast food only much better. This is a very good shopping venue and the Old Town also houses a medieval castle which is worth seeing. If you ever do make it to Lindos, there is another Acropolis, smaller than the one in Athens but you can ride donkeys to the top. We didn't go there this trip but I have done it before. Alexandria- we did an all day excursion which took us to the pyramids, sphinx, papyrus institute, mosque and ended with a Nile dinner cruise. Very good excursion except for the harsh wind and extremely pushy vendors at the pyramid site. I recommend bringing some spare change because the vendors will be very persistent. Also keeping your head down while you walk helps with both the sand and the soliciting. I see why the women wear veils, my hair was a horrible mess from the wind and sand by the time we got back to the ship. The Nile dinner cruise had excellent food and entertainment, a good way to end the tour. Limassol- canceled due to weather, had a day at sea instead. As a result MSC added the port of Messina to what was supposed to be one of only two sea days later in the cruise. Marmaris- we did a ship excursion where we took a boat trip and saw tombs carved into mountains, then went to the ancient city of Kaunos. Spent an hour or so there and our tour guide was very knowledgeable. Many of the guides in Turkey know several languages so there is never a communication problem. After seeing the ancient city we then came back and had a large lunch, ended with shopping downtown. I bought a couple of small handmade rugs and the kids bought some knick-knacks. Crete- again tried to rent a car but no one was open so we hired a private taxi for 100 Euros. We went to the Palace at Knossos, Zorba's tomb, an olive oil factory and fields, Greek Orthodox Church, then he brought us to Lion Square where we ate what would be our last Greek meal. I lost it a little bit on the gypsies who kept coming to our table to beg for money, but I felt responsible as the designated Greek to tell them off. I swear I really am a good Christian otherwise, but we had just given all of our change to some little girl who played the accordion, and I thought that three panhandlers in less than a minute was ridiculous while trying to eat. Messina- we chose the Mt. Etna tour which ended up being a bust, it rained the whole day so we spent about twenty minutes looking at some volcanic rock and a half hour in town shopping. About an hour drive each way for less than an hour of touring. Naples- in spite of the rain, a very good tour of Pompeii... I had no idea how big this city was or how well preserved so much of it would be. Definitely worth seeing no matter what the weather is. We also had a pizza lunch in town... a little pricey at 55 Euros for four individual pizzas, two beers and two sodas, but the pizza as delicious so it was well worth it Miscellaneous pros and cons- In the spirit of being positive, the pros first.... for example in spite of the limit on free beverages, the drink costs are relatively cheap and don't charge an automatic 15% gratuity. In eleven days we spent an average of 7 Euros each day per person on drinks. Also, the auto-tipping was less than most lines at 66 Euros for adults and 33 Euros for children. There were some nice touches, like fresh fruit in your cabin every night, bathrobes, and a large assortment of board games and puzzles for the kids. Many of the stores were inexpensive, in fact Lizzie found a swimsuit for under 15 Euro. Some of the negative things, many services were extremely disorganized, sparse or non-existent. No one was ever in the internet cafe to help, the photo gallery was closed 90% of the time so we never saw our pictures (probably a good thing if they are overpriced like most lines, but again we never could find out) and changing our dining time to late seating was a complete disaster. In this case I was assigned a number like they do at the deli, and after waiting a half hour my number was finally called. I got up there and was told that they were closing because the maitre-d had to be elsewhere.... meanwhile about 50 other passengers were pushing ahead of me and being really rude. Finally I spoke up and said "everyone is cutting ahead and I am getting upset." I was then taken inside and given my later seating, but after feeling like a heel for throwing a little bit of a fit. Disembarkation- There is no self-assist, but because US citizens had to wait for the return of our passports after we had handed them in a few days earlier, it was probably a moot issue. I didn't like handing in our passports but in the long run it gave us an advantage.... because we didn't have to wait in the dreaded Barney-splashed Carlos Felice Theater with hundreds of others. Those picking up passports got to wait in the much smaller, quieter and less crowded Moulin Rouge. Passing them out was a bit of a debacle, we sat back and watched while everyone waited in line for the staff to find their passports in one of several boxes. When almost everyone was gone I sent Peter up to get ours among what little was left. I would say we were off the ship by 10:30am. Finding a taxi was a little tricky and it was pretty cold for Italy. They had transfer buses to Genoa airport but they were not advertised at all so we didn't know about them until disembarkation day. Also, it would have been 15 Euros per person rather than the 28 we paid for the cab. Final thoughts- All in all I would take this cruise again... but would be better prepared next time. I would definitely pay the extra for a balcony when cruising along so many of the islands. In fact one of the most memorable moments for me was when we pulled out of Crete and the sun was shining on the balcony as the ship sailed along the north coast of the island... I sat out there feeling somewhat sad, knowing this was the last time I would see Greece for at least another year, maybe longer. Sure, I probably made it worse for myself listening to Greek music as we sailed but it is one thing I will never forget, bittersweet as it was. I think every cruise should have at least one of these moments that stands out from the rest, thereby making it a success. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
After entering through one of the more efficient boarding processes into the beautiful atrium, we were keyed up for a really fabulous cruise - our fifth. After checking out our cabin which was of the usual style and standard we were still ... Read More
After entering through one of the more efficient boarding processes into the beautiful atrium, we were keyed up for a really fabulous cruise - our fifth. After checking out our cabin which was of the usual style and standard we were still feeling great about the experience before us. On reading the information provided we discovered there were a few issues of concern regarding the ship and cabin facilities. These were: No laundromat nor passenger ironing facility; No tea/ coffee making facility in cabin. These amongst some other issues would detract from what could have been a great cruise. The following are areas that I consider were extremely poor aspects of the MSC Orchestra and would have to be addressed before cruising with or recommending MSC to any other person or travel agent: Lack of Drinking Water The only available water, for drinking, provided was in the buffet, at meal times, or afternoon tea. In the dining room, or at any other time drinking water was only available as bottled water @ 2.60 Euro for 750ml. After much discussions with the various levels of the dining room hierarchy I eventually managed to get three glasses of iced water served at dinner each night. I contacted the reception of the ship to find out if the water in the cabin taps was suitable to drink and they said that it wasn't. After discussions with the ship's purser he advised that the water in the cabin was drinkable? I am still unsure. Tea/ Coffee As there was no tea or coffee facility in room, one could reasonably expect that instant coffee or tea would be readily available, free of charge, at various stations around the ship. Not only wasn't this the case but the only time tea/coffee was served was at breakfast or afternoon tea. At lunch, dinner or at other times passengers were expected to purchase from a bar at inflated cost. After raising this as part of an overall lack of available water/ fluids available we were given coupons to address the issue - under strict secrecy requirements. As an average a person requires two litres of water per day which works out at 10 Euro per passenger at MSC rates. Smoking Whilst I acknowledge that smoking in Italy is allowed in far more places than Australia, I found it incomprehensible that you had to walk through a smoking lounge to get to another bar or the theatre and that all the major entertainment activities were held in a smoking bar. As a non smoker this precluded me from many activities and by the time I left the cruise, having had walked through smoking areas, with clothing that reeked of cigarette and cigar smoke. Laundry/ Ironing As this was part of a longer trip with the constraints of luggage allowances, we had anticipated, like others we met, that we would have access to laundry/ironing facilities on board as had been our previous experiences cruising, or the option of sending out laundry and ironing. It came as a shock when the only facilities were send out at extortionate rates and we are supposed to look presentable to enter the dining facility. Dining Hygiene Being conscious of the rapid way in which infection can travel through passengers on board ships, I was appalled at the lack of basic facilities at the entry to the dining areas. Whilst the buffet had hand wash machines at the entrance, these were not always working, and the dining rooms had no such facilities at all. When I asked about the dining room facilities I was told to go to the nearby toilet to wash my hands by the Assistant Maitre D'. Other Facilities Internet Cafe- 25 euros an hour and then it would drop out when you sent a message. There was never a problem finding a computer because passengers refused to use it. Gymnasium - the size of the gym and equipment in relation to passenger numbers was totally inadequate. Coupled with this was the exercise classes which had to be conducted in public areas and so my wife did feel comfortable to attend. Incorrect Information - Reception As mentioned previously I received information from reception which was then contradicted by the Purser. This one of several occasions that reception provided misleading or incorrect information including refund information for day trips as well as questions relating to various aspects about the ships processes- room service, accounts etc. It was very difficult to trust any information provided. What I found extremely disappointing, apart from the issues raised above was the attitude of the ship's "management team" - who when asked to address an issue would respond with - "It's company policy". Whilst it may seem from the above list that we didn't enjoy or value any aspects of the MSC Orchestra. This is not true. MSC does the big things really well - the onboard environment is fabulous- with the exception of the smoking issues, and the entertainment was first rate, especially as it was designed for such a diverse audience. The cabin staff, wait staff in the dining facilities, the bar staff and the ship's medical officers provided outstanding service throughout the cruise. They were always extremely helpful, professional and willing to go out of their way. I have since raised these issues with MSC and the response was basically like it or lump it. I guess it is one company who I am reluctant to recommend. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

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